The thing about comforter toys is that you have absolutely no control over what it is that your child will get attached to.
Give a child an easily-replacable muslin to take a shine to, and he will cast it aside with contempt. Accidentally leave a pair of post-pregnancy knickers on the floor – the lycra of which is so tattered and worn they look like they’ve sprouted their own pubes – and your toddler will clutch them to its bosom like a long-lost brother who comes bearing sweets.
They are also like talismans, imbued with intense magical powers that can get your child to eat / to sleep / to stop hitting the woman-in-front-of-you-on-the-bus’s head.
In fact, so strong is the hold of the comforter, that if your child decided tomorrow that he ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE THE HOLY SHROUD OF TURIN before he felt able to put his shoes on, you would find it, you would steal it, you would cut it up into handkerchief-sized bits and when you were down to your last piece you would pray for the second coming & crucifixion of Jesus Christ so that you had a replacement lined up.
Would you not?
Up until a couple of months ago, Edgar was pretty ambivalent when it came to his ‘chew toy’ of choice. Chulbul Panda…Stripy Big Nose…Starry Wizard Hat etc… the bag of pre-loved comforters given to us by a friend were completely interchangeable.
The toys didn’t seem to mind this polygamous arrangement either – although I imagine it’s hard to bitch fight when you have extra soft knots for hands and feet.
But then a favourite started to emerge, and as Edgar focussed his solus sucking attention on a certain ‘Hanky Bear Head’, another thing became clear…
Our son’s spittle smells of sewer.
This is not an exaggeration. Anything that gets soaked in his saliva wreaks like a sceptic tank gone bad.
It is difficult to describe in words (unless you suffer from a peculiar form of synaesthesia in which all words smell of shit when you read them) just how awful it is.
Perhaps if I tell you that we recently took our car into the garage with what we thought was a serious damp problem, but which actually turned out to be one of his former chew toys shoved behind the seat, you can start to appreciate the unique ‘odeur du dump’ that he excretes from his gob glands.
Where does it come from? Is someone feeding him black coffee and cigarettes when we are not looking? At this rate he’ll have no alternative than to become a French teacher from the 1970’s when he grows up.
We thought that perhaps buying a second Hanky Bear Head would help to spread the mildew-smelling motherload, but given that Hanky Bear Head number one was a pre-loved gift of unknown origins, this was never going to be easy.
[My initial attempt – simply sticking ‘hanky bear head’ into a search engine and feeling lucky – turned up a guide on using handkerchiefs to signal your most base sexual preferences to other gay men in bars where it’s too loud to talk. I was, of course, deeply shocked. Don’t these people know about the risks of tinnitus?]
Many many attempts later, I find a replica. An exact copy. A Number Two, but without the stench of number one (or number twos, hopefully, ha ha). He is placed in basket, checked out and despatched within seconds.
I did wonder whether Edgar would reject this obvious interloper, but I needn’t have worried. No sooner does he clap eyes on it than his salivary ducts go into overdrive. I am reminded of Dickensian descriptions of Victorian London, the sluice flowing freely through the streets. I cannot be certain but I may have seen a dead rat and the bloated body of a murdered prostitute float through my son’s cherubic mouth.
But it matters not, because now I can get the first one into the wash, right?
For I have made the schoolgirl error of allowing them to be in the same room together. Within eyesight of the boy who looks at this inexplicable multiplication with something akin to rapture.
So now Edgar has an unbreakable attachment to TWO Hanky Bear Heads.
Most people I know are terrified that they will lose their kids’ comforter toys. I am terrified that we WON’T. That we will have to live with the constant smell of mouthballs (sic) for many more years to come.
I suppose on the plus side, if a misplacement were to happen, we won’t so much start a ‘reunite this toy with its kid’ campaign on Facebook, as spark an all-out bio-hazard panic within a fifty mile radius of the damn things.
And there’ll be none of the potential issues of him needing to take a ‘blankie’ into school when he’s older. If Edgar needs the type of reassurance offered by these bad boys, he can always go and hug a week-old food bin instead.
Of course, the more astute amongst you may be thinking, why don’t we just buy ANOTHER Hanky Bear Head? But where will it end? I have visions of him lugging one of those massive blue Ikea bags of them around with him, as appalled bystanders wonder who the toddler dragging the Glastonbury portaloo is.
I suppose we’re just going to have to suck up the inevitable meltdown that will come when we surgically remove them both from him for the boil-wash they so desperately need.
And hope that our fabric softener’s claim of its fragrance lasting between washes actually turns out to be true.